BAGHDAD (AP) Iraqis powered their generators and gathered with friends Friday as excitement grew over the Olympics. But many were disappointed that their national team was represented by only four athletes after a dispute with the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC suspended the Iraqi team in May over alleged government interference in Iraq's national committee.
The decision was reversed last month, allowing four two rowers and two track and field athletes of the original seven qualified athletes to compete. The three others missed deadlines for their sports because of the dispute.
"We are happy to share with the world in these joyful moments. But I am sad to see the big teams of many countries, while our country is left behind with one of the smallest teams in the Olympics," said Saif Osama, a 22-year-old Christian college student in Baghdad.
Many Iraqis said the Games would provide a much-needed respite from security concerns and other problems that persist despite a steep decline in violence after more than five years of warfare.
He and five friends planned to watch the Games every night and had collected enough money to run a generator throughout the competition to avoid the frequent power outages that plague Baghdad.
Many Iraqis said they would watch events with friends on TVs set up in cafes a tradition that had been sharply curtailed during past sporting events because of fears of bombings.
Olympics fan Alaa Abbas, a 32-year-old student from Diwaniyah, 80 miles south of Baghdad, said he and his friends planned to gather in a cafe and stay up late to watch the competition.